IT WOULND'T BE the end of summer in Alaska without the Alaska State Fair. Amusement rides, midway food, fair hair, concerts and giant cabbages figure heavily into Alaskan's memories each August. Going to the fair can sure cost a pretty penny though. Once you get there and ride a few rides and buy a round of corn dogs for everyone that can add up to one spendy day. But when you search out the fun and free entertainment that abounds you can get up to 7 times the fun for the same price!
So make the most of the cost of a ticket with these admission-included attractions. Try one or try them all, your pocketbook will thank you and, most importantly, your kids will think you're the coolest mom/dad/auntie/grandparent/uncle/friend ever and you'll enjoy the day so much more.
To make the free events work for your family, visit the fair website and the daily schedule for the day you plan to attend and do a little pre planning. Once at the fair grab a daily schedule, available free at the front gate when you walk in, so you can refer back to it as needed.
1. Spin & weave. These local spinners and weavers are always great to check out. Watch the local talent turn raw wool in yarn while they explain what they're doing.
Where: Irwin Building When: ongoing
2. Turn, turn turn. Not to be outdone in the handicrafts department, the wood turners show off their amazing lathe skills nearby the weavers in the same hall. These guys have some serious talent, demonstrating high-speed carving has never been so enthralling!
Where: Irwin Building When: ongoing
3. Tasting menu. The cooking demonstrations in the exhibit halls are a great place to duck in and dry off when it's raining out (and it will rain at the fair). You'll come in because you're wet and you'll stay because it's fun and educational - oh, and yummy!
Where: Hoskins Building When: ongoing
4. Argh ye mateys! The long-running pirate show remains great interactive entertainment for the whole family. All sorts of pirates, all sorts of fun - visiting this show is a no-brainer, so all you'll need to decide is which pirate you want to take your photo with - Jack Sparrow or Capt'n Hook?
Where: Kendall Grandstand lawn When: 1p, 3p and 5p daily
5. Garden maze. Check out the children's garden, it's an amazing maze and flora display that changes every year. Full of live plants and whimsy at every turn, kids will love discovering while getting deep into nature. And, hey! Not so fast mom and dad - some parts are for kids only!
Where: Kids Zone on the red trail When: daily 12p-8p
6. Pop a wheelie. After witnessing the jumping, flipping, spinning, stunt awesomeness that is the BMX bike show your kids will never look at their bikes the same way again. (Adults may be even be inspired to take their 10-speed off a jump on the next family ride.)
Where: Purple Trail When: 1p, 3p, 5p, 7:30p
7. Sawing logs. The lumberjack show is just plain corny state fair fun! The jokes are mostly the same every year but no matter, it's always entertaining, educational and kids love it.
Where: Lumberjack Lot behind the Irwin Building When: daily 1p, 3p and 6p
Here's a hot tip to ensure that you don't miss anything cool: If you have a cell phone or watch with an alarm, set it to ring when it's time to head to the next show. This is also a great way to move your family along if someone is stuck wanting to do something you’re just not going to do (like buy a potato gun - not that I've ever had that problem before). Mixed in with the rides you pay for and the cotton candy as big as your head, the free entertainment can really round out your day at the Alaska State Fair.
Laura Sampson lives, loves and writes in the Matanuska Susitna Valley. She shares her life with her husband, three boys, two cats, one mastiff and various farm animals. She loves to cook, garden, read, knit, bike and have fun with her kids. Most importantly she recognizes that the days of a mother are long but the time is short and adjusts her attitude accordingly. Her blog, Hey What's for Dinner Mom? is all about cooking, crafting, thrifting and thriving in Alaska.